Rep. Steve Scalise, Republican Rep for Los Angeles and House Majority Whip, went after Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg for the social media company’s recent algorithm changes, which resulted in a spike of Facebook traffic to mainstream news sources and a significant decrease in engagement for conservative news outlets.
Rep. Scalise also pressured Zuckerberg on the allegations made by Obama’s former media analytics director that FB allotted them “special favors” during the 2012 presidential campaign.
“Getting into this new realm of content review, I know that some of the people who work for FB — Campbell Brown for example. ‘This is changing our relationship with publishers and emphasizing something that Facebook has never done before: it’s having a point of view.’”
Rep. Scalise brought up the YouTube conservative entertainers Diamond and Silk, who were branded by FB as “unsafe to the community,” and asked if they were “mistakenly” censored were the people responsible “held accountable” in any way.
According to the CEO that situation was a recent development which occurred as he prepared to testify, and unable to give details on the incident.
Via Breitbart: Rep. Scalise then cited a report that showed a “16-point disparity” in Facebook rankings between liberal and conservative publishing outlets following the social network’s recent change to its algorithm, intended to promote “quality news” in the words of Zuckerberg.
Rep. Scalise said the research indicated a “tremendous bias” against conservative news as a result of Facebook’s algorithm change.
Rep. Scalise, a former computer programmer, asked if Facebook had included a “bias” in its new algorithm. He also asked Zuckerberg who developed the algorithm.
Zuckerberg said that Facebook’s goal is to be a “platform for all ideas,” and that there was “absolutely no directive in any of the changes that we make to have a bias in anything that we do.”
At this time Rep. Scalise prompted Zuckerberg to “go back and look and determine if there was a bias,” and to report back to Congress on his findings. The representatives said it was “disturbing” to see the great differences that came after FB’s algorithm change.
Then Scalise turned to the issue about comments made by Carol Davidsen, Obama’s former media analytics director, who put on the record FB gave the campaign “special favors” in 2012. Davidsen said, at the time of the Cambridge Analytica scandal, that the campaign was able to “suck out the entire social graph” of the U.S. and FB representatives were “very candid that they allowed us to do things they wouldn’t have allowed someone else to do because they were on our side.”
Scalise was the first person on the committee to bring up this issue to Zuckerberg.
If true, this could constitute an illegal corporate contribution under federal campaign law, according to a former Federal Election Commission member.
“We didn’t allow the Obama campaign to do anything that any developer on the platform wouldn’t otherwise have been able to do,” said Zuckerberg, confirming that he thought Davidsen’s comments were “inaccurate.”
He did not explain why he thought Davidsen — who oversaw Obama’s data operation in 2012 — could have got it wrong.